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That Pride of Race and CharacterThe Roots of Jewish Benevolence in the Jim Crow South$
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Caroline E. Light

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781479854530

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9781479854530.001.0001

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date: 14 December 2017

“Virtue, Rectitude and Loyalty to Our Faith”

“Virtue, Rectitude and Loyalty to Our Faith”

Jewish Orphans and the Politics of Southern Cultural Capital

(p.81) 3 “Virtue, Rectitude and Loyalty to Our Faith”
That Pride of Race and Character

Caroline E. Light

NYU Press

This chapter analyzes southern Jewish orphan homes as exemplary spaces for developing cultural citizenship and transforming the children of the poor into paragons of white respectability. Established in 1856 and 1889, respectively, the New Orleans Jewish Orphans Home and the Atlanta Hebrew Orphans Asylum provided shelter as well as superior care to the Jewish orphans of the South. Despite roiling debates over the viability of institutionalization, these homes served as vehicles not just for the relief of the poor but also for optimizing and showcasing communal Jewish success and belonging. For many Jewish leaders, the orphan proved a symbol of unsettling liminality, a harbinger of hope but also of danger, for her success promised communal pride and legitimacy, yet her failure to conform to the prevailing codes of gender and race respectability threatened the foundation on which Jewish civic entitlements were based. In direct challenge to larger systemic and epistemological threats to Jewish belonging, the two southern Jewish orphan homes worked to produce respectable men and women who would represent their people as outstanding citizens in the eyes of the larger world.

Keywords:   southern Jews, Jewish orphan homes, cultural citizenship, poor children, New Orleans Jewish Orphans Home, Atlanta Hebrew Orphans Asylum, orphans, Jewish belonging, white respectability

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